Do Gallstones Always Demand Surgery?

The chronic pain and discomfort associated with gallstones and gallstone pancreatitis often drives people into emergency rooms or their doctors’ offices seeking help. For many of these people, a simple surgical procedure will be recommended to address concerns related to gallstones once and for all.

While addressing the sometimes-severe pain of gallstones is often a priority, some people may find their symptoms aren’t quite so serious. When that is the case, they may wonder if surgery is absolutely necessary. Researchers have found that it may not always be 100-percent necessary to undergo surgery if symptoms of gallstone pancreatitis don’t warrant intervention.

Gallstone pancreatitis arises when a gallstone or gallstones manage to become lodged in a duct that leads to the pancreas. This may block pancreatic enzymes from leaving the pancreas and assisting with digestion. As the enzymes back up into the pancreas, they may create inflammation and pain. The standard intervention in this case is to remove the gallbladder entirely.

Researchers interested in seeing if the surgery was always necessary with gallstone pancreatitis looked into the cases of more than 17,000 people with gallstone pancreatitis. Nearly 80 percent of the patients had their gallbladders removed. Roughly 2,500 patients did not have their gallbladders removed over the course of a four-year period. These patients were reportedly doing okay that far down the road without major recurrence concerns.

The bottom line, researchers say, is that some people may fare well without surgery. Further study is needed to understand why that is the case and when avoidance of surgery might be advisable. In the meantime, people who are diagnosed with gallstone pancreatitis are urged to work closely with their doctors to find the right treatment for their case. Most commonly, surgery to remove the gallbladder will be recommended to prevent recurrences and further complications.

 

 

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